June 20, 1980: Roberto Duran breaks Sugar Ray Leonard’s winning streak
In the ’70s, Sugar Ray Leonard was one of the most exciting boxers in the field. With wins over Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Rafael Rodriguez, folks thought he was nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, Leonard couldn’t go toe to toe with one of Panama’s finest.
A tough challenge ahead
On March 31, 1980, Leonard successfully defended his newly won WBC Welterweight Championship against Dave Boy Green. At that point, the North Carolina native had an impressive 27 match winning streak in his professional career. When it came to his next opponent, Leonard had his work cut out for him. Roberto Duran knew a thing or two about undefeated streaks. He won 31 matches before suffering his first loss against Esteban de Jesus on Nov 17, 1972. Following that loss, Duran bounced back with a 39 match winning streak.
Setting the stage
The match between the two titans would take place on June 20, 1980, inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. This would be Leonard’s return to the stadium following his Olympic win there in 1976. The anticipation for this match was major amongst boxing fans. 46,317 people purchased tickets for the match rightfully titled The Brawl in Montreal. When it comes to preparing for the fight, Leonard did something unconventional. He chose to fight like Duran in order to get in his head. Duran fought in a flat foot manner, which meant standing with the heels planted on the ground.
A stunning victory
With the world watching, Leonard and Duran finally faced off in the ring. In the end, Durán’s endurance paid off big time as it turned into a one-sided match. For Leonard, it also felt like Duran was cloning himself like Doctor Strange. After 15 exhilarating rounds, Leonard lost to Duran via unanimous decision. Judge Angelo Poletti’s scorecard drew controversy from a plethora of people. While he had the match at 148–147, other publications had different scorecards. The New York Times managed to have it where Leonard actually won 144–142. With that loss, the WBC Welterweight Championship changed hands. “It saddened me that I lost that fight … a very close fight, but it made me who I am today,” Leonard told Montreal Gazette. Leonard and Duran still remain great friends today after that match. Don’t expect them to take it to the ring one more time, though.